The Lions of Al-Rassan was first published in 1995. Quille & Quire’s review, reproduced in full on this site, comments: “Kay doesn’t waste a word or a scene. Darker in tone than his previous work, it nevertheless has that certain spark-that almost Shakespearian ability to work with human archetype-that makes Kay’s literary voice so distinctive.” For the more recent of GGK’s books I have been able to find more reviews – thus we have five reviews of The Lions of Al-Rassan at the moment on the site.
In The Lions of Al-Rassan, GGK went further than he ever had before towards history and away from traditional high fantasy. Al-Rassan is a thinly disguised Al-Andalus – the book speaks powerfully and poetically of the conflict and tragedy of a fragmenting world inspired by the history of reconquista Spain. The three peoples that inhabit Al-Rassan and its neighbour Esperana -Asharites, Jaddites and Kindath- are clear parallels of Moors, Christians and Jews. People somewhat familiar with Spanish history might realise that Rodrigo Belmonte is inspired by the legendary figure of El Cid, but they may not realise that other direct historical parallels also exist. For example, there was a Jewish chancellor to a Moorish King in one of the city states, Granada, whose name was Shmuel HaNagid (Samuel the Prince). There was also an Ibn Ammar. There may not have been a day of the moat – but there was a day of the ditch. For a brief look at the historical events that inspired the book, click here.
In his essay ‘Home and Away,’ GGK discusses the merits of examining history in a fantasy setting, and The Lions of Al-Rassan is the book he uses most frequently in the essay to illustrate his ideas. He also here provides the interested reader with a bibliography of key historical texts that he used in his research of the period in question.
As well as texts, we have a number of relevant internet links on historical material related to Lions on -you guessed it- the links page. So if you’re not quite up to buying history books yet, but you want some more info, click over there.
We’re lucky again that the passage from Lions that GGK chooses to read when reading aloud to an audience is not too much of a spoiler. So for those of you who haven’t read the book, and want to get a taste of the real thing, you can get it here without ruining your appetite for the full feast. Rodrigo Belmonte of Jaddite Esperaña, ‘the Captain,’ has gone with his company to Fezana, a city of Asharite Al-Rassan, to fetch tribute for his king… more
As always, one form of the arts can inspire other forms. The cover art for The Lions of Al-Rassan used in different countries has been very interesting – consider the Croatian and French covers for example. Without using an actual song from the book, Martin Springett has used its spirit, combined with that of Sarantium, to infuse meaning into his haunting instrumental piece ‘Painted Feet (on ochre sand).’ Listen to it now in the music section of the site.
While none of the interviews on the site focus a great deal on Lions, it is mentioned in a few, notably the Event Horizon chat transcript and the Phantastes interview. It’s worth visiting the Interviews section to hear what GGK has to say about his intentions with the book (and with his others, of course!)
Academics have already turned their attention to The Lions of Al-Rassan, and we have some of their work on this site. Holly Ordway examines the historical sources and allusions in the book in her essay on GGK’s Worldbuilding, while Dena Taylor examines the accommodation of culture in The Lions of Al-Rassan.